Russell Wilson has Seahawks looking like a contender again

BALTIMORE -- Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson are in their fourth season playing together, and the wide receiver knows his quarterback pretty well.

Asked Sunday about whether Wilson paid attention to the criticism earlier in the season when the Seattle Seahawks got off to a 2-4 start, Baldwin said, "He’ll tell you that he’s ignored the noise, but as humans, and I’m not going to speak for him, but I know that criticism is just a part of it. I don’t know if he listens to it or if he’s heard it, but I know that he responded. Whether he listened to it or not, he responded in some fashion, and he’s been balling ever since."

Minutes later, it was Wilson's turn to step up to the podium, and he was asked to comment on the same topic.

"I don’t pay attention to it," Wilson said. "I ignore the noise, like I always tell you guys. But I also tell everybody that’s in my small group not to tell me anything. So I don’t want to hear anything."

Wilson and Baldwin are currently playing the best football of their respective careers, forming the most productive quarterback-wide receiver combination in the league during the past month. Wilson completed 23 of 32 passes for 292 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Seahawks' 35-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Baldwin caught six of those passes for 82 yards and three scores, his second three-touchdown game in the past three weeks.

In recent weeks, there have been reasons to doubt whether the Seahawks could keep up their pace offensively. They lost tight end Jimmy Graham for the season. Marshawn Lynch has been sidelined. And on Sunday, rookie running back Thomas Rawls went down with a broken ankle. His replacement, DuJuan Harris, had 42 yards on 18 carries.

Coach Pete Carroll has insisted the formula hasn't changed. The Seahawks want to win with a strong defense and a run-heavy attack. But the truth is the strength of this team has changed. Nothing is working better than the passing game right now. In the past four weeks, Wilson is 89-of-118 (75.4 percent) for 1,171 yards (9.9 YPA), 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Asked if he's surprised by those numbers, Wilson said, "I’m not surprised. I’m just looking forward to next week."

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Wilson is one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to have a four-game span with at least 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. Tom Brady did it in 2007 and Peyton Manning did it in 2013. Not bad company to keep, especially when you're 27 years old and already have a Super Bowl ring.

There are other factors, for sure. The offensive line is playing at a high level. And the defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past eight quarters. But Wilson is the guy opponents don't have an answer for right now. And as long as he's healthy, the Seahawks have a legitimate chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year.

"Everything that he’s doing right now, he’s done before," Baldwin said. "But he’s just doing it at a very high level. He’s always been magnificent outside of the pocket, but now he’s doing something that he hasn’t done up to this level inside of the pocket. And so it makes it so much easier on everybody else. To his credit, he’s playing unbelievable right now.

"He’s doing it all. And he’s doing it consistently. So as receivers, offensive line, it makes our job a lot easier. It’s Russ right now. He’s balling."

Wilson has tied a career high with 26 touchdowns and is on pace to set personal bests in completion percentage (68.8) and yards per attempt (8.57). He leads the NFL with a passer rating of 110.0.

At 8-5, the Seahawks have moved into the No. 5 position in the NFC playoff picture. If the season ended today, they'd travel to the home of the NFC East winner, a game they would undoubtedly be favored in.

There are still question marks. What's the plan at running back? Is strong safety Kam Chancellor (bruised tailbone) going to be sidelined? Can the defense hold up against a high-powered passing attack?

But after Sunday's win, this team was feeling good. Carroll stood atop lockers to deliver his postgame speech, and cornerback Richard Sherman wondered why anyone ever doubted them.

"The Seattle Seahawks back to doing what they do," Sherman said. "Let’s call all those people who wrote us off and call for their jobs.

"We feel the same way we’ve always felt. Nothing has changed for us. The opinion of the outside world is the only thing that fluctuates. The understanding, the confidence in the room, inside our building, has not changed or wavered."